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talltale's reviews view profile

page  <<  11  12  13  14  15  16  17  18  19  20  >>      prev | next
Fractured to Its Detriment  
on June 13, 2006 - 7:56 AM PDT
  of The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada (2005)
2 out of 6 members found this review helpful

I realize that THE THREE BURIALS OF MELQUIADES ESTRADA won Best Screenplay award at Cannes (Tommy Lee Jones won best actor, too), but it seems to me that the fractured screenplay is one reason why the movie did not take off or win over more audiences. Melquiades is the lynchpin of the film, yet the way he's presented leaves him existing mostly as a decaying corpse rather than the rich, full character he ought to be (and could have been) had the moviemakers given him his best shot.

Instead, they diddle between past and present, making it more difficult to realize who this guy was or to care about him the way lead character played by Jones certainly does. While the movie nods graciously to the likes of Sam Peckinpah, it also does the usual "women don't count much, 'cause you can't count on 'em" number of which Peckinpah was far too fond. Beautifully photographed, very well acted by all and with a timely story that addresses our hot-button immigration issue (a bit sentimentally), "3 Burials" is worth seeing and then wishing it were better.
Mermaids, Again  
on June 12, 2006 - 8:23 PM PDT
  of Aquamarine (2006)
1 out of 1 members found this review helpful

Every couple of decades or so there appears another popular "mermaid" movie. When I was a kid, it was "Mr. Peabody and the Mermaid"; the 80s offered us "Splash" and later "The Little Mermaid"; and now we have AQUAMARINE. Equal part sweet and clever, this is a children's film that will appeal to adults ("Splash" was the opposite), but it is such a good children's film (tipped toward the "tween" set) that kids both older and younger (and even parents) ought to appreciate it, too.

The movie deals with problems that beset adolescents--moving away from friends, losing a parent, and what to do with one's budding interest in the opposite sex--and these will grab the tween set and probably evoke some sad or happy memories in older folk. Especially good is the minimal use of special effects: the mermaid looks real enough, but there is so little in the way of digital "magic" that when it does happen--the dolphins at the end--it's all the more captivating. Emma Roberts (Julia's niece) looks set to become quite a beautiful young woman, and the rest of the cast (many of them from Australia, where the movie was filmed) does a lovely job, as well.
Playing the Race Card--and Pretty Well, Too  
on June 12, 2006 - 10:41 AM PDT
  of Sarah Silverman: Jesus is Magic
3 out of 4 members found this review helpful

Although the best bit of humor in this entire film (Sarah's joke about being raped by her doctor) was quoted in another review I read, there were still a few zingy, funny moments and interesting songs (the lady can sing) so that SARAH SILVERMAN: JESUS IS MAGIC just squeaked into the 6-point category. It's her "attitude"--part valley girl, part knowing satirist, part sweet/simple doofus, part narcissistic idiot plus a few other modes all squished together--that gives Ms. Silverman her unique style. Unfortunately for me, that style isn't enough to make up for a lack of real content much of the time. Her take on race provides her most interesting material (for this alone, you might care to take a look) but the potty-mouth part of her act isn't all that original or bracing. The manner in which she chooses to frame (and occasionally intersperse) her live concert, however, is pretty clever.
Time-Capsule Stuff  
on June 11, 2006 - 3:03 PM PDT
  of Gay Sex in the 70's (2004)
1 out of 2 members found this review helpful

Of interest mostly to gay audiences (even then, I suspect, only to those over 50 and a few of the younger crowd who might wonder what gay life was like pre-AIDS) and of course to the nitwit "religious right" who revel in seeing how "disgusting" we can be, GAY SEX IN THE 70s is about exactly what its title proclaims. It covers a bit of the pre-Stonewall repression, the explosion of sexuality in the late 60s that continued through the 70s, ending with the resulting wipe-out of so many of the folks we knew and loved.

If I seem to link all this (repression, explosion, AIDS), well, so does the movie--though not in any overly judgmental manner, allowing instead its dozen narrators to tell stories and show pictures, many of which are rather grainy and often repetitive, but still worth the listen and watch: sad, sometimes funny, sexy and lively (until of course, it turns deadly). This short film should become part of world history--even if it is a history of a minority, in a specific country (mostly New York City), at a particular time.
Family Values, Guns Included  
on June 11, 2006 - 9:14 AM PDT
  of Running Scared (2006)
3 out of 3 members found this review helpful

Wayne Kramer's RUNNING SCARED may have a trite and over-used title but it's still a must-see: original, fast, violent, sexy, funny, bizarre and full of good-old-fashioned family values. Yep. Which separate it nicely from some of the work of Tarrantino and his disciples. It IS over the top in ways both obvious and not, so you won't mistake it for a realistic gangster epic or thriller or really anything else.

For the scene with the pederasts alone--which gives full vent to our righteous anger--this is one disturbing movie. Disturbing, too, is its use of children and guns. I'm all for gun control, and yet I embraced much of what I saw here, which may make me a hypocrite or Kramer (who also co-wrote and directed "The Cooler" and wrote the underrated thriller "Mindhunters") some sort of devilish genius.

The movie starts with a bang and seldom lets up. Kramer is smart enough to vary his pacing but not his suspense--which remains high. He tosses Italian, Russians and dirty cops into a mix that separates real family values from the fake kind that our politicians and religious leaders keep screaming about. But there's little soap-boxing; the movie moves too fast and has too much on its mind for that. The cast, very well-chosen, delivers each role well, with surprising shades of good and bad (Kramer doesn't do simple-minded cliche).

"Running Scared" may not have needed so many special effects during the gunplay and elsewhere (although this is probably part of the "fun" Kramer wants to offer: this IS a movie, after all). If it reminded me of anything, it would be Matthew Bright's "Freeway," though the look and style are quite different. But it's equally original. And unsettling. And fun.
All Movies, All the Time  
on June 10, 2006 - 8:14 PM PDT
  of Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005)
3 out of 4 members found this review helpful

Warner Brothers has long been heralded as the one major studio that never has a clue what to do with an offbeat movie. From "Imaginary Crimes" to the latest case in point--KISS KISS BANG BANG, one of the best of last year's film crop--the studio just gives up on anything it can't market as mainstream. What a shame. (And Warner's "Independent" label hasn't shown much success, either: "March of the Penguins" was the fluke that proves the rule, mostly by being recut and voiced-over into a nearly-mainstream bit of twaddle.) Although critics generally loved KISS KISS BANG BANG (as did the few audience members who chanced upon it during its short theatrical run), it sank quickly. Let's hope DVD and cable helps resuscitate this terrific little film.

Written and directed by the late 80s/much-of-the-90s "Lethal Weapon" wonder boy Shane Black, it marks a return to some of the cleverness and humor evident in his early "Monster Squad," but it's much more movie-savvy and just about as au courant as a screenwriter can get. Full of witty, seemingly improvised dialog (some of it well might have been, since the wonderful Robert Downey Jr. spouts it) the film also offers up two more fabulous roles, fabulously played by Val Kilmer and Michelle Monaghan. Mr. Black appears to know movies (noir in particular) inside out, and what he does with bits such as having the hero grasping for dear life onto a hand that is--no, I shan't spoil it--well, this is delightful stuff. The "narrative" is chock-a-block with knowing, "insider" humor that is usually truly funny rather than merely showy. Don't even begin to think of yourself as a movie buff unless you add this one to your queue.
Too Easy -- but Still Some Fun  
on June 10, 2006 - 7:45 AM PDT
  of As Luck Would Have It (2002)

Looking and sounding every bit like the made-for-French/Swiss-TV movie that it is, AS LUCK WOULD HAVE IT still manages to pull you in, though it takes some time to get around the heavy-handed characters, plot development and style. But eventually, due to winning performances from French stand-by Jean-Claude Brialy (who has now played nearly 200 roles in film and TV!) and the rest of a good cast, you will probably finish up the film with a smile on your puss, admitting that, yes, this was an enjoyable romp that teaches us an evergreen lesson: being true to one's self is always the best way. Now, if life were only as easy as this film suggests....
Whose Territory?  
on June 10, 2006 - 7:40 AM PDT
  of The Syrian Bride (2004)

For those of us who know little about the inhabitants of Israel's Golan Heights area, THE SYRIAN BRIDE will come as a bracing surprise, as well as a tart, funny/sad story about familial (and other kinds of) love. Beautifully acted by a raft of fine performers, leading off with Hiam Abbass (who was so wonderful in everything from "Paradise Now" to "Munich" and especially the leading role is "Satin Rouge"), the movie becomes a splendid political allegory without having to push anything into heavy-handed territory. By virtue of the rules governing this little area, some fine writing, directing and acting, all is made plain and not so simple. Family comes first here, and the lovely reconciliation scene, viewed from the rear, is a hallmark of the director's subtlety and style. This is a fine piece of moviemaking.
Architecture & Space Trump the Story  
on June 9, 2006 - 3:48 PM PDT
  of The Uninvited (2003)
2 out of 2 members found this review helpful

Architecture, space, loneliness and coming to terms with the past vie for your attention in THE UNINVITED, a supremely quiet, nearly single-toned, quasi-ghost story that goes against the usual quick mood changes (if not the enormous length) of most modern Korean films. This movie is depressing in a number of ways, which does not necessarily mean it's not good. But it will be a matter of taste whether you feel like sticking with its obsessions, right through to the unsurprising, sad end.

My knowledge of Korean history is vague, and though the movie does not go into history in any overt manner, it seemed to me that--symbolically or metaphorically--the themes it deals with fit interestingly into what that country has gone through over the past 50-odd years since its division. Worth a look, and maybe more than that--if it hooks you.
Mo' Mos, Please!  
on June 9, 2006 - 3:08 PM PDT
  of 16 Blocks (2006)
4 out of 4 members found this review helpful

Is Mos Def the world's greatest actor? That may sound like a silly question, but on the basis of his work in "Something the Lord Made," "A Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" and now 16 BLOCKS, this fellow is one amazingly talented dude, capable of creating vibrant characters who possess enormous warmth and spirit yet are completely different from each other. Mr. Def is the real thing.

Fortunately for this tight, funny and exciting little movie, he is surrounded by some other good people: Director Richard Donner (doing his best work since "Conspiracy Theory" and the original Christopher Reeves "Superman"), writer Richard Wenk (of the underrated Grace Jones vampire comedy "Vamp"), David Morse doing his usual yeoman job and co-star Bruce Willis (as good as he's been in a long while) all provide ideal chemistry to create an oddball and affecting buddy movie.

What makes "16 Blocks" work particularly well is that its heart and mind are in the right place regarding police, power and the people. It's not a great film (you can pick apart certain plot points), but it far better than most of the junk Hollywood is churning out in the action/thriller/cop mode. And mo' Mos, please: movieland's best directors and writers should keep the challenging roles coming. Clearly, Def's got the chops to rise to them. (Note: The alternate ending--which the director calls the actual "original" ending--is even better than the one they used for theatrical release.)
Think Pink  
on June 7, 2006 - 4:19 PM PDT
  of The Pink Panther (2006)
2 out of 2 members found this review helpful

Comedy's a particularly funny genre (in the "odd" sense of the word) and mainstream tastes seem to run the gamut. We found THE (new) PINK PANTHER to be quite silly and delightful, with Steve Martin a genuinely funny and dumbly sweet Clouseau, and the rest of the cast just fine, too--from Kevin Kline in the Herbert Lom role to Jean Reno, who's wonderful as the Clouseau sidekick, proving that he can make as accomplished a reticent, charming "straight man" as he can a rough-and-tumble action star. Emily Mortimer proves a pert and sweet love interest, but Beyonce Knowles is just so-so, bringing not much professionalism or pizzazz to her role. (She was better in her Austin Power gig, and I hope she will be again in the upcoming filmed version of "Dream Girls.") Forget most of what you've heard: There are plenty of laughs, charm and pleasant scenery here. Take a tumble.
The Last of Merchant/Ivory  
on June 4, 2006 - 8:22 PM PDT
  of The White Countess (2005)
5 out of 5 members found this review helpful

Ralph Fiennes gives another of his fine performances in Merchant/Ivory's last collaboration THE WHITE COUNTESS, and he is supported by a top-notch cast, including--among more than a dozen terrific actors--Vanessa Redgrave, Madeline Potter, Hiroyuki Sanada and Lee Pace ("Soldier's Girl"). Never uninteresting, this story of the polyglot community of foreigners in Shanghai, including displaced Russian royalty, just prior to WWII is unusual and moving--though probably too slow-moving for many audiences.

The screenplay by Kazuo Ishiguro manages to include a lot of characters, events and back story, along with rather too much unbelievable exposition (the first scene with the Russian émigrés is chock-a-block with it) and his organization sometimes veers close to soap opera. Still, the story and performances command enough attention to carry us forward, and as ever with Merchant/Ivory, the locations, sets and cinematography (here, by the great Christopher Doyle) are enticing.

Though not top-level M/I, the film is quite good enough. This team will be sorely missed by many of us (Ismael Merchant died this past year), and it will be interesting to see what James Ivory does on his own (he's approaching 80, so perhaps we should not expect too much).
Just One, Big, Happy Family  
on June 4, 2006 - 8:20 PM PDT
  of Underworld: Evolution (2006)
1 out of 1 members found this review helpful

Better than its predecessor (mostly because it doesn't extend its vampire-vs-lycan fights to the point of complete boredom), UNDERWORLD: EVOLUTION boasts an even better Brit cast this time around. We get (but barely enough of) not just Bill Nighy and Michael Sheen but Derek Jacobi and Steven Mackintosh!

I'd have to watch the first one again to figure out more about why this sequel is superior, and since wild horses couldn't drag me to that endeavor, you'll just have to see for yourself. There's enough "story" here to choke one of those horses, and it's offered up in an expository manner that makes your favorite soap opera seem subtle and reticent. But if you're a fan of the vampire and/or werewolf genres, chances are you've queued this one up already.
Waste Product  
on June 4, 2006 - 7:18 AM PDT
  of Freedomland (2006)
2 out of 4 members found this review helpful

Acclaimed novelist Richard Price doesn't seem to make the transition to movies very well--especially when, in the case of "Clockers"--and now FREEDOMLAND--he writes that screenplay himself. (He fares better with original work like "Sea of Love" and "Mad Dog and Glory.") As so-so as was "Clockers," this new one is ten times worse, due perhaps to the sorry work of Joe Roth, making yet another foray into directing (can't someone in his immediate family convince him to stop this useless effort, for which he seems to have zero competence?). Fine performers like Julianne Moore and Samuel L. Jackson flail around, looking desperately for a consistent character to act. Edie Falco comes off best by doing least. Almost everything about the movie makes little sense--from the reactions in the crowd scenes to the pivotal one-on-one moments. This is a shocking waste of time, money and talent. Small wonder it sank with barely a trace.
Hearing in a Different Manner, Making Music That Way, Too  
on June 4, 2006 - 7:14 AM PDT
  of Touch the Sound (2004)
3 out of 4 members found this review helpful

As was Thomas Riedelsheimer's earlier documentary "Rivers & Tides" (for me, at least), TOUCH THE SOUND is equal parts interesting and oddly-distanced, as it semi-examines the life and work of nearly-deaf musician Evelyn Glennie. Sometimes visually stunning, it meanders around and about, letting us see and hear Glennie here and there (her trip to Japan proved most interesting for me) as she makes music (to my taste, again, only partially successful) and talks about her state of being and her work. This is the sort of film that some will love to distraction, while it bores others to nearly that same extent. I'm somewhere in the middle: while I found the subject worthwhile, I wonder if another filmmaker might have captured Glennie and her work in a more solid manner. If you're into "elusive," however, this may fill the bill perfectly.
History Repeating  
on June 3, 2006 - 5:00 PM PDT
  of Winter Soldier (1972)
1 out of 1 members found this review helpful

No country is always right in what it does. Every country--just as every person--makes mistakes. Why is it so difficult to admit to these? That question may come up as you watch WINTER SOLDIER, a must-see documentary (long withheld from view) that is very nearly impossible NOT to look away from, or more likely, cover your ears against the quietly deafening words uttered by this group of Viet Nam veterans about the atrocities they both witnessed and committed during the greatest mistake--until Iraq--in our country's post-WWII history. (Some might call Korea the greater mistake.)

Watching & hearing these young men should make us truly ashamed for ourselves and for our country. For those of us who did not serve, how can we be sure we would not have done exactly the same? Or gone insane from the pressure of that enormous disconnect between what no civilized humans could do--and what they did? A few scant years ago, we could have said that the testimony given here might help prevent this sort of thing from happening again. No longer, though--as massacres by American soldiers against Iraqi civilians grow more numerous.

"Winter Soldier" never received the television airing it was supposed to have had in 1972. Withholding truth because it might damage reputations is never smart and often deadly. Vietnam was televised into our living rooms, and this helped end that horrible devastation. Given the lies & appalling secrecy of the current administration, what chance is there for Iraq? For any of you screaming "My country, right or wrong!" I ask you to finish that famous sentence. Here it is in full, as uttered by Senator Carl Schurz, back in 1872, against America's Imperialistic tendencies: "My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right." But by whom? And how? And when?
A Shoo-in for Year's Worst (and its only June!)  
on May 31, 2006 - 4:26 PM PDT
  of Date Movie (2006)
2 out of 3 members found this review helpful

Apparently made by a bunch of grown men who are still playing with their poopie in the sandbox, DATE MOVIE hits a new low, even for the over-crowded and easily maligned "spoof" genre. Crass is one thing, as the Farrelly brothers have proven often and cleverly, but crass without a hint of humor is something else.

There may be half a dozen genuine laughs here (half of those provided by Jennifer Coolidge's impersonation of the Streisand of "Meet the Fockers"); the rest are of the sort that leave you feeling ready for something the strength of an acid bath to get rid of that scummy feeling. Alyson Hannigan proves quite the trooper here, though I suspect she's set women's causes back a decade or two, while Adam Campbell's aspiration to Hugh Grant-dom needs much superior material to get him there. If nothing else, "Date Movie" should act as a touchstone against which you will be able to easily measure--for years to come--REALLY bad films.
On the Brink  
on May 29, 2006 - 7:20 AM PDT
  of Garcon Stupide (2004)
4 out of 4 members found this review helpful

Lionel Baier's GARCON STUPIDE offers an unusual look at the coming-of-age of a young Swiss man/boy, Loic, as he negotiates a very strange and tricky life. The movie's strengths are many, beginning with its viewpoint--almost documentary--as the director and his star Pierre Chatagny collaborate and draw from Chatagny's life to create this look at a rather severely troubled youth. I don't recall another film that reminded me so much of my own youth and decisions I made, which seem both foolish and understandable in retrospect, and I would not be surprised if many other viewers feel this, too (not so much via the specifics of Loic's life but more in the way Baier captures that point in time when a young gay man comes to terms with impending adulthood and what this can mean and bring).

Loic, attractive and alert (though untutored), is pulled by various forces--friends, sexual encounters, work--as he begins to wonder about and then discover who he is. Highly impressionable ("impressionist," as he might call it), he flirts with everything from violence and extreme sex to stalking and suicide before finding--perhaps--some pathway toward autonomy.

Ironically, the biggest problem with the film also resides in its viewpoint, which is jumbled between that documentary sense (in which the director intrudes as a character and voice) and narrative storytelling. Certain events--death, a visit to what appears to be Loic's parents (did they adopt him?), a car crash--aren't given the weight they deserve. Since this jumble is part of what gives the film its strength and originality, I guess we must chalk this up as an exercise in growth for the writer/director. I wholeheartedly recommend and would not want to have missed "Garcon Stupide" (which translates perfectly as "Stupid Boy"), and I look forward to Mr. Baier's next step.
Been There, Done That, Seen and Heard it All, Too....  
on May 27, 2006 - 4:34 PM PDT
  of Firewall (2006)
3 out of 3 members found this review helpful

Another unnecessary thriller about a family periled by a bunch of sleazy crooks who want something to which the family holds the key, FIREWALL is, well, how about "undistinguished"? The OK direction is by Richard Loncraine, who has given us a number of good films, but the writing by Joe Forte (no track record save one unseen and probably unreleased film called "Say I Do"), for all its detail about computers, software, hardware and banks, finally comes off as ludicrously unbelievable due to the build-up of coincidence and the weird treatment of character.

The relationship between Harrison Ford and his assistant, nicely played by Mary Lynn Rajskub, is a case in point. It proceeds from clever and believable to off-key to finally dumb and unbelievable. But that's the course of the whole movie. (Ford, by the way, looks much too old for this kind of pseudo-action crap.) You finish the film, nearly as exhausted as its remaining characters, with four words on your lips "Why did I bother?" That's a question asked much too often of movies in this overworked-but-underdone genre. Try "Red Eye" (if you haven't already). It's over half-an-hour shorter and ten times as good.
Fabulous First (Full-Length) Film  
on May 27, 2006 - 11:07 AM PDT
  of The Warrior (2001)
1 out of 1 members found this review helpful

Every so often a movie is so much better than you expect that you want to pull out all the stops in recommending it. I will thus refrain and leave maybe one "stop" unpulled. Otherwise THE WARRIOR is a must-see: for its ravishing beauty, its ability to tell a strong story economically yet fully, performances (even from some novice actors) that are pitch-perfect and perhaps most surprising, its director's knack for knowing exactly how to deal with violent scenes so that they make their necessary point but never descend into the sleazy, gratuitous or pandering that most movies dealing with killing and revenge manage all too well. That this is director/co-writer Asif Kapadia's first full-length film makes it one for the books (he's done four short films previously).

Kapadia is British by birth but heavily influenced by his family's Indian subcontinent culture, and his film--watch the "Making Of" special feature for some fascinating background--is one of the most genuinely international I've yet encountered. Talk about a collaborative effort! An eastern "western" heavy with symbolism--all of which works without undue pushing--the movie deals with the uses of violence, power and honest humility. It is graced with a fine screenplay (co-written by Tim Miller) and a production design that looks authentic and lived-in. But then everything from costumes to music, editing, sets, sound and more offers an array of talent working at the top of their game. Oh-oh: did I just pull that last stop? Screw it: DON'T MISS THIS MOVIE!
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